Local entrepreneurs revive moribund former gas station site with award-winning poutine and other fast food
FINCH — Fat Les’s is expanding — into Finch.
Village residents Jamie and Carrie Scharf are reviving the former MacEwen’s gas station building into a convenience store and take-out eatery featuring the popular concessionaire’s famous specialty poutines, all-Canadian Kawaratha ice cream and other confections.
Recently investing about $100,000 to revamp the County Rd. 43 structure, the couple aim to officially open for business this Thursday morning (June 15) — fortified with a menu of treats and eats courtesy of their brother-in-law, ‘Fat’ Les Winters.
“It’s my dream location, it’s perfect, a small town in a small community,” says Les on a recent morning while assisting the Scharfs with final preparations for the opening.
As a business, the Finch outlet is wholly owned by the couple and technically not a franchise; Les describes the arrangement as a “buying group.”
But customers are unlikely to care about such subtle distinctions — once they see the familiar piggy logo and smell the aroma of sizzling bacon-double-cheeseburger poutine at the local brand’s seventh Eastern Ontario location.
Fat Les’s entries won Best Poutine at a Montreal competition in 2015 and Best Poutine in Ottawa this year.
“Whatever Les is doing, that’s what we’re going to do,” says Carrie, after highlighting the gleaming stainless steel kitchen that includes ‘razzle’ and milkshake maker, soft and hard ice cream, pizza oven, integrated soup and chili pots and more.
“We’ll have chicken wings, baked spaghetti, banana splits,” adds Jamie, a lifelong Finch resident who figured it was time to “find something different” after 22 years in the trucking industry.
As he spoke, he was simultaneously arranging for a bread man to supply the convenience-store side of the operation. “We’ll have milk, bread, butter, propane and ice,” he says, naming off a few items. “A little bit of everything.”
They also say they plan to make food deliveries from the shop, which will open every morning at 5:30 a.m. with fresh breakfast sandwiches.
Carrie, an early childhood educator, says her husband will be assisted by well-known local shopkeep Gail St. Pierre in kitchen. The new Finch Fat Les’s will also be a summer and after-school job opportunity for their family of four children, ranging from 12 to 18 years of age.
During warm weather, passersby will be able to enjoy their burgers and fries on picnic tables beside the building. Free wifi will cover the premises. The Scharfs also say they plan to erect a play structure on the site.
“Jamie just loves the people in Finch, and he wants to provide a good life for his wife and children,” says his sister, Holly Scharf, exuding excitement about the new family business.
Response to their plans in the village “has been really great,” notes Jamie. “The community has been really behind it.”
The address has otherwise sat empty since MacEwen’s controversial decision to pull out of Finch in 2015. The new operators won’t be bringing back the pumps, but Jamie says the community is happy to see the site developed for business again.
Above: The ribbon was officially cut yesterday at the new Fat Les’s Chip Stand and convenience store in Finch yesterday — but the operation officially opens its doors to the public at 11 a.m. today (June 15). Owners Jamie and Carrie Scharf (centre in the main video scene) welcomed officials to yesterday’s event, including Township of North Stormont Mayor Dennis Fife (second from left), Fat Les’s founder Les Winters (third from left) and MP Guy Lauzon’s executive assistant Adrian Bugelli (third from right). MPP Jim McDonell also arrived to present a provincial scroll (shown in a later frame).
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